I find it very hard to eat foods that are good for me and easy to prepare. Can you give me some ideas? I like cheese and it has calcium but is it high in chloesterol; same with other foods. It seems so confusing trying to eat healthy. If I could change one thing at a time what would you suggest?

My first suggestion is that you reach out to a dietitian, which you did. Great start! It does seem like healthy and nutritious food may be #1 expensive and #2 time consuming and #3 hard to prepare. But, if you do a little bit of research I think you will find that it can be affordable, quick, and easy. Get yourself a good cookbook. I have many written by dietitians (RD’s) and I usually try to find cookbooks that imply ease of preparation or few ingredients (look for words like “quick” and “healthy” in the title). Once you have the cookbook, take some time and really review the recipes. I think you will be surprised and find many dishes that you may already have ingredients to prepare! I suggest that you pick a few recipes that sound good to you and get out a piece of paper/start a grocery list.

If you really want to improve your diet, you will need to expand the contents of your pantry and refrigerator. Your pantry should contain things like: brown rice, whole wheat pasta, high fiber cereal, canned beans and vegetables (low salt varieties), canned tuna or salmon in water, healthy oils like olive and canola, apple cider vinegar, avocados, and oatmeal. Your refrigerator should contain things like low fat dairy products, high fiber/whole wheat bread, a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs, hummus, tofu, and water/low sugar Healthy Balance juice. The freezer could contain lean meats (chicken, turkey, and seafood), frozen fruits and vegetables, and any future healthy, frozen meals that you whip up! Now pick a few easy recipes and go to the store.

Personally, I love black beans. They are very versatile and they combine easily with many ingredients for a quick and easy entree. I make my own simple black bean burgers with a combination of pureed beans and whole beans, breadcrumbs, and garlic. I found an easy quesadilla recipe that called for whole wheat wraps, black beans, sautéed peppers and onions, and low fat cheese. An easy standby is spaghetti! But to make it healthier use the whole wheat pasta and add many vegetables (that you have either in your pantry, refrigerator or freezer) like mushrooms, zucchini, or squash. Another dish that my family loves is my lettuce wrap appetizer. I pulse tofu in the food processor and then sauté it to firm it up (as you would ground beef). At the same time I sauté black beans and zucchini to soften them up and add some fresh spices to that mix. Add a little lite soy sauce to the tofu and then combine it all in a bowl and serve in soft Bibb lettuce.

To answer your final question: I would definitely start to reduce the amount of red meat in your diet first and start to supplement with either chicken, fish or a vegetarian option like tofu, quinoa, or beans. Then I would try to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables per day and reduce the amount of “processed” foods (like snack chips, cookies, candy). I would also try to prepare food in a healthy way and try to keep deep frying to a minimum. I guarantee once you start to make healthy changes in your diet you will feel much better overall, and soon you will find that it is not so hard after all.

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